Shabat Outweighs the Ninth Day of Av
This year the Shabat on which parsha of Dvarim is being read publicly in the
synagogue is itself the ninth day of Av. There are differing customs as to
how to treat this Shabat and whether any restrictions whatsoever should
pertain to our usual Shabat pleasures and enjoyment. Even though the
prevailing custom is to treat this Shabat in the usual and normal fashion,
the parsha of Dvarim all by itself is sufficient warning to sober our attitudes.
For the review that Moshe provides for us of the events of the forty-year
stay in the desert of Sinai by the Jewish people, contains within it the
harbingers of all later disasters and tragedies that would befall the people
of Israel. Rebellion against Moshe’s authority and God’s directions,
internal disputes, pettiness and ingratitude, attempts to renounce previous
commitments, disloyalty to the Land of Israel, all are on display in Moshe’s
oration as recorded in Dvarim.
Moshe’s tone in describing these failings of the Jewish society of his day
is one of grave disappointment, yet there is little indication in his words
of despair or undue foreboding about the future of the people. Moshe does
not mention God’s offer, so to speak, to build the Jewish people through him
solely while eliminating the rest of Israel from the future.
He does not portray himself as being indispensable for Jewish survival and
success. In spite of all of the harsh facts of Jewish failures that Moshe
outlines for us, he expresses no doubts that the people will enter the Land
of Israel and that God will continue to be with them even in their darkest
In a deeper sense that is what the lesson of this Shabat teaches us. Shabat
outweighs the ninth day of Av. That day will be overcome in Jewish history
and national life. Jews will yet again inhabit the Land of Israel.
Eventually our Temple will somehow be rebuilt. Thus the ninth day of Av is
essentially temporary – a long temporary but still only temporary.
Shabat is permanent and eternal. Permanence always overcomes the temporary
and eternity always triumphs over fleeting faddishness. In pushing off the
observance of the fast day from Shabat to the next day, the Halacha
reaffirmed the centrality and permanence of Shabat as a supreme value in
The rabbis declared that the ninth day of Av will yet be a holiday on the
Jewish calendar. But that calendar is firmly rooted and based upon Shabat.
The Jewish world faces great challenges, disappointments and dangers in our
time just as it did in the time of Moshe. Many of them are caused by the
absence of Shabat in the lives and hearts of so many Jews.
Moshe’s sense of ultimate optimism regarding the fate of his beloved people
is based upon the resilience of Jews to learn from their sins and errors and
to adopt a Torah lifestyle, with Shabat as its centerpiece. May we live to
see Shabat completely vanquish the ninth day of Av.
Rabbi Berel Wein